OISE’s Argot

Argot (pronounced /ˈɑrɡoʊ/; French, Spanish, Romanian and Catalan for “slang“) is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. Wikipedia

The University of Toronto’s OISE, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is in many ways quite a world in itself. Much has been made here and elsewhere of one of its recent MA theses, the one by Jennifer Peto. But the same OISE faculty member who supervised Peto’s thesis, Sheryl Nestel, also supervised five others since 2009. All six can be downloaded from the U of T website. The authors, besides Peto, are Abdullah, Ejiogu, Noss, Riley, and Epstein. These six theses are so full of linguistic tics and mannerisms that outsiders are hard put to follow what is being said:

“Hegemonic.” All six of the theses use the term, as in

What I am critical of is that this struggle against anti-Semitism has become so enmeshed with Zionist politics that the effects of hegemonic white Jewish human rights activism are often racist and imperialist. (Peto)

“Interrogate,” used as a transitive verb with an inanimate object, used by all six writers, as in

While both concepts help in rendering the national subject intelligible, it is the character of the muscular Christian that I find particularly generative for the research questions I wish to interrogate in this paper. (Ejiogu)

“Queer,” used by five out of six, as in

As much of this project is about Jewish identity, race and madness, in writing it I might accidentally clear a discursive space for Jewish identity in critical race theory, or for queerness in mad/disability studies. (Epstein)

“Racialized,” used by all six, as in

I suggest that these western feminist constructions of sexual liberation rely on
depicting racialized women as primitive and degenerate. (Noss)

These four pieces of argot can obviously describe only a small part of the esoteric nature of OISE’s language. To OISE initiates, no doubt, this language sends some signals. But to the uninitiated, what does it all mean ? I don’t think that OISE, or the part of OISE that engages in this kind of talk, can claim to communicate with the public that pays its bills.

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